The role of Sapelli in collecting indigenous weather/climate forecast data


A typical household of a farmer in Northern Ghana

The impact of climate variability and change is real in Ghana; a phenomenon affecting several sectors of the economy and ecological zones. Critical among these sectors is agriculture for which Northern Ghana is the most susceptible as it falls within the Guinea and Sudan savannah ecological zones. Early warning systems such as climate information services have been cited as key to making the agriculture sector robust; in particular, for farmers, so they could make more adaptive decisions to increase their productivity. Meteorological forecasting services have been in operation for some time in the country providing these services to farmers. However, information provided in most cases becomes irrelevant for farmers due to inaccuracies, untimeliness and difficulty in interpreting information making them less actionable for water-dependent adaptive decision-making. As a result, most farmers rely on their indigenous ecological knowledge to predict weather/climate patterns for farm planning.

Leveraging on farmers existing knowledge systems, our project seeks to harness and integrate indigenous and scientific forecast in order to generate actionable hydroclimatic information that improves farmers adaptive decision making. The unique approach adopted in this research is the involvement of local farmers via a digital platform to regularly provide their indigenous forecast using the principle of extreme citizen science (ExCiteS). This would explore and contribute to the argument that science should not be a one-directional process where it produces new knowledge and information and makes it accessible for end-users but rather interactive by enabling co-design, co-creation and co-production of knowledge involving different forms of expertise.

Training farmers on Sapelli mobile app

To engage farmers with low literacy levels in such a scientific process required an easy and less complicated process. Sapelli promised to provide a safe and reliable means of overcoming potential challenges likely to mal the process. Prior to the 2017 farming season, we trained 12 farmers from 12 different communities in the Kumbungu district in the North of Ghana. Farmers were trained and offered mobile phones containing the Sapelli android mobile app. They were engaged to send their 24hrs rain forecast while recording observed rainfall for a period of seven months (April – October) which constitutes the raining season. Forecast data on the Sapelli mobile app has been transcribed and is compared with observed data for skill analysis. Farmers found the process very educative, empowering and interesting. However, the process was not without technical challenges mostly associated with the mobile phones. For example, phones screens getting damaged because of mishandling by farmers. Also, phone batteries becoming faulty due to charging frequency. Therefore, phone quality and farmers’ behaviours must be a major concern for future projects.

This case study is part of a larger project on Responsible life-science innovations for development in the digital age: EVOCA, coordinated by the following Groups in Wageningen University and Research:

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